Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pavel on the Bubble

Great nicknames abound in the sport of hockey. "The Rocket," "the Golden Jet," "Boom Boom," and of course, "the Great One," come immediately to mind. The Hurricanes have a player who has been given (by local fans) the rather unfortunate nickname of "Krispy." No, not as in crisp play, crisp skating, or crisp finishes, it's Krispy, as in Krispy Kreme.

Pavel Brendl was the number 4 overall pick in the 1999 draft, and thought at the time to be a future scoring machine. He was traded prior to the 2001 season along with Jan Hvlac (another sweet treat), Kim Johnsson, and a 3rd round pick to the Flyers for Eric Lindros. The Rangers, never really known as purveyors of best practices in the field of personnel management, were willing to give up a top four pick within two years. Worse yet, they were willing to package him with three other players to get Lindros.

The Flyers also quickly soured on Brendl. They moved him and Bruno St. Jacques to the 'Canes in 2003 for an under-performing Sami Kapanen and a guy who is probably playing in a beer league right now in Alberta.

Now with his third NHL organization, Brendl had a poor showing in camp in 2003 and started the year with the Lowell Lockmonsters of the AHL. I remember a radio interview early in the fall of 2003 in which Jim Rutherford commented rather harshly on Pavel's work ethic, conditioning and overall attitude. JR basically told 850 The Buzz host Adam Gold that until he saw changes, the young Czech wouldn't get near the RBC Center.

Hockey Armageddon arrived in 2004 with the lockout, forcing Brendl overseas to play in the friendly confines of his native land. Well, Pavel went through two Czech clubs within the first two months of the '04-'05 season, and quickly exited the Bohemian Beer Belt for a chance to play for the MIF Redhawks (not to be confused with my beloved CCHA Miami University Redhawks) in Sweden. Here at last he was able to establish some roots, learn to sing karaoke in time with old ABBA records, and become a pillar in the local community-for around a week!

Next, the jet-setting international man of mystery was off to Finland-much like Sweden, just less rigidly Germanic. Pavel lasted around a month in Finland, likely finding the bland local cuisine and extended periods of twilight unbearable.

Arrrrgh! Time to move on. This time to Switzerland. Oooodles of chocolate, Riiiicoooolas, and goalies who just aren't quite good enough to make a real dent in the NHL; all in a nation with a reputation for keeping their nose out of other people's business. This could just be the perfect place for an iconoclast young Czech to play hockey! Krispy lasted around a month in the Swiss league.

The Pavel Brendl European tour ended last spring with Jokipojat Joensuu (say that three times fast) in Finland's free road kill reindeer meat league.

Pavel Brendl and the 'Canes will begin camp next week. Last time I checked, the roster listed 28 forwards. Andrew Ladd, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft is playing his butt off in the Ottawa Senators Rookie tourney right now. Niklas Nordgren (sorry 'Cane fans, apparently no relation to Tiger's turbo-hottie wife), linemate of Henrik Zetterberg and all-around scoring stud from the Swedish Elite league, will also be in camp trying to make the squad. The Hurricanes made a rather big deal out of his signing. Mike Zigomanis is looking at perhaps his last shot at sticking with the big club. Krispy better bring his "A" game, and leave his bags packed.

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